Zoning and Rezoning
Zoning is key to managing city growth. Understanding how it works is important to being an informed citizen. Below you will find help to understand what zoning is and how it is applied in Raleigh.
The Zoning Map
Zoning is a legal instrument to regulate the use of land, building size, height, and setbacks. Zoning is intended to promote an orderly pattern of development and to separate land uses that are incompatible such as industrial uses and homes.
The official zoning map is a legal document maintained by the Department of City Planning that defines the zoning for all areas within the City’s jurisdiction. Every parcel of land within the City’s jurisdiction, including parkland, has a zoning designation. The spatial designations in the official zoning map are known as zoning districts.
Raleigh's Zoning Districts
The City of Raleigh uses three types of base zoning districts: residential districts, mixed-use districts, and special districts. Raleigh’s entire jurisdiction is covered by base districts, and there may only be one base district on any parcel. Some parts of the city receive further regulation in the form of overlay districts. More than one overlay district may apply to the same parcel. You can find more information about zoning districts in Raleigh’s Unified Development Ordinance.
Residential districts are designed for neighborhoods with densities of up to 10 dwelling units per acre and building heights no taller than three stories and 40 feet. They allow residential uses as well as civic uses like schools and churches.
Mixed-use districts offer greater flexibility in use and density while still allowing for appropriate transitions between residential, commercial, and industrial areas. Lower intensity districts like Residential Mixed Use (RX), Office Mixed Use (OX), and Office Park (OP) restrict the amount of retail use in a development and are intended to provide an active but compatible buffer for residential districts. Neighborhood Mixed Use (NX), Commercial Mixed Use (CX), and Industrial Mixed Use (IX) allow a greater range and concentration of uses, making them well-suited to commercial centers and corridors.
In addition to residential and mixed-use districts, Raleigh has a set of special districts for areas and uses that require customized regulation. Special districts can address the unique needs of sensitive environmental areas, agricultural uses, or heavy industry.
The last type of zoning district used by the City of Raleigh is the overlay district. Overlays add an extra set of regulations related to an environmental, cultural, or infrastructure feature that may extend across numerous parcels and various base districts.
Find Your Zoning
The easiest and most accurate way to determine zoning for any part of the City of Raleigh is with iMAPS. IMAPS is a web-based mapping platform managed by Wake County.
IMAPS is very similar to other interactive online maps that allow you to search for addresses, measure distances, or look at satellite images. What makes iMAPS special is that it also gives you access to Wake County’s tax data and a wide range of regulatory and policy information from the City of Raleigh, including the Official Zoning Map.
To find your zoning on iMAPS:
- Search for an address, parcel identification number (PIN), real estate ID, or property owner in the search box in the upper right-hand corner
- Once you have located your area of interest, click on the ‘Layers’ bar in the lower right-hand corner
- Scroll down the list, and turn on the layers labeled ‘Zoning’ and ‘Overlays’
- Look at your area of interest on the map. It will now be labeled with the zoning and overlay districts that apply to that area.
To find the zoning conditions for a site, follow steps 1 through 4 above and then:
- Click on the ‘Tools’ bar in the upper left-hand corner
- Click the ‘Identify’ tool (the white circle with a lower-case ‘i’ inside of it)
- Click on your area of interest. A pop-up box should appear.
- In the pop-up box, find the row labeled ‘Link to Conditions’
- Click the link to download or open a PDF file of the zoning conditions
A Zoning Verification Letter provides a letter from the Development Services Department confirming the zoning district(s) for any given parcel of land as well any applicable zoning conditions that are on the parcel. A separate application must be submitted for each parcel.
A Zoning Verification Letter does not provide a determination as to the compliance or noncompliance of any existing land uses on the property.
Changes to the Zoning Map
Rezoning is the act of modifying the Official Zoning Map. A rezoning case may be initiated by an individual, a group of individuals, or the City. However it is initiated, the case must go through a legally-defined process. For more information on the rezoning process, visit the Rezoning page.
To view cases that have already been submitted and are in the process of being reviewed by staff, visit the Current Development Activity page. On the Planning Commission and City Council pages you can find the times and dates for upcoming public meetings. You can also sign up for email updates on the activities of the Planning Commission and City Council on their respective pages.
All zoning cases from 1984 to the present can be found on the Finalized Rezoning Cases page.
The Zoning Division is responsible for enforcement of the City of Raleigh Zoning Code designed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Raleigh’s citizens. The function of Zoning Code Enforcement is to enforce the requirements of the City’s Zoning Ordinance as found in Part 10 Unified Development Ordinance of the Raleigh City Code.
- Applicant: Person(s) applying to rezone a property. Anyone can submit an application for a rezoning for any property. The only requirements are to pay the application fee, have a pre-application conference with the Planning Department staff, and hold a neighborhood meeting.
- Built Environment: All the physical, human-made surroundings that make up a city, such as buildings, parks, streets, utility poles, etc.
- Frontage: An additional layer of zoning that provides more detail on how the building relates to the street; frontages regulate how far back a building can be, where the parking is located, required street landscaping, and other design elements.
- Citizen Advisory Council (CAC): If you live in Raleigh, you automatically are a member of a Citizens Advisory Council. The City of Raleigh has 19 CACs, each representing a different geographic region of the city. Each CAC elects its own officers and decides its own activities and priorities. CACs are nonpartisan, advisory boards that provide advice to the City Council.
- Condition; Conditional Use (CU): Conditions can be offered by the owner to create more restrictive requirements for their property. They must be enforceable by the city, and be more restrictive than city code.
- Density: The number of dwelling units (house, apartment, townhouse) that can be built on a certain amount of land.
- Intensity: How much land use will affect the surrounding area. For example, a three-story mixed-use building with apartments on top and retail on the bottom is a more intense use than a single-family home.
- Rezoning: The process to change the zoning district designation, or what can and cannot be built on a piece of land.
- Overlay District: This is an additional layer of zoning designed to protect the characteristics of a specific area of the city. While the zoning applies to large districts, overlays apply to areas such as historic districts, watersheds, or the airport to protect the special character of the area.
- Mixed-use Zoning (_X): The zoning code has multiple types of mixed-use zoning districts. These range from Residential Mixed-use (RX), where a variety of homes and limited retail is permitted, to Industrial Mixed-use (IX), where light manufacturing, retail, and limited housing is permitted. These districts always have a building height component. For example, an RX-3 district has a three-story height limit.
- Residential Zoning (R_): These zoning districts permits different types of dwelling units at varying densities. They can range from low density, such as single-family homes in a Residential-4 (R-4) district permitting up to four units per acre of land, to a moderate density Residential-10 (R-10) district, which permits up to ten units per acre of land.
- Zoning: The local law that regulates how property can be used: residential, commercial, industrial, etc. It also regulates building height and spacing, building type, how the building relates to the street, and other aspects of the built environment.
- Zoning District: The area in which a specific set of regulations apply.